The Secret to Effective Executive Video

Companies of all sizes face a challenge -- communicating and doing it well. The larger an organization gets, the more vital it is to have consistent, clear communication... and ironically, the more difficult. From working with CEO's, COO's and a variety of miscellaneous C-level exec's, we've learned a few "secrets" to coaxing out an effective, streamlined and consistent video message.

According to Forbes, "More executives are creating and sharing video online. In fact over 75% utilize it weekly". However, some organization are still struggling to get the big guy or gal on camera... why? The number one reason executives don't like video is because they are uncomfortable with being filmed. Obviously this doesn't apply to every executive but, but for the ones it does apply to, it's hard to change.

These are general hacks that work regardless of the type of message or target audience. It's not a one-size-fits-all solution, just a one-post-overview message.

1) Lob the Boss a Softball
How do you train a kid to hit a baseball? First on a tee, then with a soft lob, then (if you're a meanie-meanie-pants-on-fire) you rocket in a fastball! Ok, probably not the last part, but the first two are good practice, and great for video, too. One of the best ways to get the boss on camera and leading is to have them talk about what they're already comfortable with.

There is zero benefit to starting out an interview with a quiz on Q3's marketing spend or our profitability YTD. Get outta here! Start by asking about how bright the lights are, how he feels about the upcoming months of business, what his goals are... and voila, we're into business talk. Obviously, that is oversimplified, but the point remains the same:  toss the boss a softball and let him hit it out of the park, then dive into the nitty gritty.

2) Get Your Executive Use to It
Along the same line as softballs, get the boss used to being on camera. That doesn't mean burst into their office yelling "action!", but it does mean doing video more than once a year for the most important conference and it can't fail or you're fired!  *que violin*

And to the note of consistency, have a same or similar person conducting the interview each time. Building familiarity with a person makes the entire event a lot less like getting a shot from the doctor and a lot more like getting a lollipop from the same guy. It sounds silly, but it is 100% true and critical to the success of video messaging that 1) You must be consistent for the audience to remember, care and relate to the message); and 2) You must be consistent for the comfort of your exec.

3) Don't Sugarcoat the News
Not all news is bad news, but different news than normal can often be received poorly even if that wasn't the intention. According to Chief Executive Magazine, "Certain rules always apply when conducting meetings with employees. Never sugarcoat the news. Always tell them the good, the bad, and the ugly. The 'everything is great' stemwinder should be avoided".

Great, but why? Because people crave authenticity at all levels of professionalism and involvement. If things aren't going well, that's alright, people just want to know how that will affect their position -- whether as an employee, a stakeholder, or a consumer. Same with if things are going great! People want to know the truth and when your leader has the guts to stand up and share that news -- whether good or bad -- it builds a level of respect and transparency between the corporation and it's human counterpart, the people.

4) Try Interactive
We've discussed this in past blogs:  make the video tangible. Here's a great idea: Give your audience the ability to live-chat with your executive. This doesn't mean have a live feed of the video, just create an intranet chat room to host the pre-produced video on. Then give your audience access, and give your executive the ability to write back to people as the video is happening... in real time. You can also take the post-video distribution a step farther by handing out surveys, asking for digital feedback (and providing it), incorporating other forms of social media during and post video, and more.

One of the best examples of this was Volvo during last years SuperBowl. Volvo didn't run their own ad at all... instead, they gave their audience a chance to nominate someone they thought deserved a brand new Volvo XC60 every time any car spot aired during the live event. All they had to do was tweet using the hashtag #VolvoContest and then Volvo would pick a winner. What happened? A 70% sales lift attributable to this effort (read more on Why? Because they made social marketing tangible... and you can too.

Not romantically, that'd be weird. We mean, "Keep It Simple Stupid!" And we really do mean that. At the end of the day, executives are people, too (surprise, surprise). Perhaps the best way to get an executive to perform on camera is to stop asking them to. Executives aren't actors and they shouldn't pretend to be... but they are excellent leaders with their own unique style that can be enhanced.

This is very similar to gaining traction on social media or developing a brand. You can't change who you are to grow (and you shouldn't). You have to nail down your proficiencies and do them better and better and better. Identify your executives area's of expertise and unique (and effective) style of communication. They aren't an exec by accident, so let's play off the reasons they are great leaders and show the audience those.

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About the Author
Jake LeVoir is the Director of Sales at Slate and Main. He has built a career on helping organizations grow by developing engaging video campaigns that drive consumer traffic and increase brand awareness.

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